Warships Pod

21: Cdr Rob Forsyth Pt 2 – Polaris ‘Crash Dive’, Perisher ‘Teacher’ & SSN Command

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Episode notes

In the second and final installment of our discussion with British submarine captain Commander Rob Forsyth, we hear how a hard-charging Soviet spy vessel forced him to order HMS Repulse to ‘crash dive’. It happened as the Polaris missile submarine deployed from Scotland on a deterrent patrol in the early 1970s. 

With the UK and its NATO allies locked in the Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, it was vitally important the best of the best became submarine captains, able to take such split-second, life-or-death decisions at sea.

And so Rob Forsyth also tells Warships Pod host Iain Ballantyne about the tough job of being a Perisher course ‘Teacher’, deciding who had the right stuff to command a Royal Navy submarine against the Soviets.

Next, we hear how Rob was given command of the new Swiftsure Class nuclear powered hunter-killer submarine HMS Sceptre in the late 1970s. Aside from bringing the SSN into service and through sea trials, Rob was given a mission in the Mediterranean to find and trail a Russian Navy aircraft carrier and gather vital intelligence.

Among other things Iain and Rob discuss are latter day developments such as the AUKUS defence pact between Australia, the UK and USA that will see a new generation of submarines constructed for both the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy. 

Rob and Iain also ponder whether or not a return of diesel-electric submarines in the British fleet is a means to relieve the operational strain on a small number of SSNs. Rob considers whether, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nuclear deterrence still works today, especially when conventional UK and NATO forces have arguably declined too far.

• Follow Rob Forsyth on Twitter @RStanleyForsyth 

• Iain Ballantyne is the Editor of WARSHIPS International Fleet Review magazine. 

For more details on the magazine http://bit.ly/wifrmag Warships IFR is a monthly naval news magazine, also packed with commentary and analysis and offering a dash of naval history and culture. Available from shops and direct from the publisher.

Follow it on Twitter @WarshipsIFR and Facebook @WarshipsIFR

Iain Ballantyne can be found on Twitter @IBallantyn

• To find out more about the Royal Navy’s submarines and submariners during the Cold War at sea, including the exploits of Cdr Forsyth, read the book ‘Hunter Killers’ by Iain Ballantyne. More details here https://iainballantyne.com/hunter killers/